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HIS103 25. The Origins of the First World War- Part I

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Denis Smyth

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9. The Origins of the First World War: Part One Feb 4, 2013 Key Words Notes  It all began with a profound mistake made by the German foreign policy elite. In the spring to early summer of 1890. Then they embarked on New Course in German Diplomacy.  Bismarck had resigned in 1890 because of a disagreement between with the emperor and the rest of the ruling political elite over how best to deal socialism. He had attempted to woe the working class with social welfare and finally they still voted for Social democrat …?  So for reasons of domestic problems and the liberal policy of the new emperor Bismarck resigned.  In International affairs this gave chance to Von Caprivi Holstein, now the mover in the German foreign office. He became the state secretary. Holstein had been unhappy with the apparent contradictions in the Bismarck Alliance system. He thought that ultimately the dual alliance and the Reassurance treaty were contradictory. And he was right in arguing in saying that reassurance treaty stood in contradiction of the Austro- German guarantee of Romania security and independence.  Holstein, impatient with the existing contradictions, also suspicious of Russia, he was a Russophobe, Holstein argued for a dramatic change of course in German foreign policy in the immediate aftermath of Bismarck’s resignation of office. He suggested that the recent readiness of Britain during the Bulgarian crisis in 1887, to sign on t the Mediterranean agreements, both aimed at containing the Russian power, was proof that Britain was now prepared to engage in diplomatic commitments in Europe.  The new course was founded on that premise. That Britain could replace Russia on that tri-part bloc, which along with Italy would dominate Europe. Russia would be isolated and Britain would join the Austro- German partnership-Triple alliance as it were.  The only slight problem with that logic of premise was that it was a piece of stupidity. Britain had signed the Mediterranean agreement because Germany would formally and publicly back up Austria over the Bulgarian crisis. Britain had to step into the breach because Bismarck had stood aside covertly and latently but this didn’t become evident to Britain for a while. So they stepped in to do Bismarck’s dirty work because they thought Bismarck wasn’t prepared to do it himself.  Germany had to support Austria to the hilt that meant there was no need of Britain to join arms in Austro-German bloc. By the very fact of alienating Russia, Germany had to underpin Austria itself and so Britain had no need to do that itself. So now Britain had no need to engage in a partnership with the Austrians or Germans. This was literally a self- defeating policy. Moreover, it also left Russia dangerously unengaged for support elsewhere  It was still considered unlikely in Berlin that any regimen could ever forge an alliance with the most progressive third French republic.  In the aftermath of their rejection by the Germans, the Russians decided to make a gesture to the French.  In July 1890, the Czar sent a personal invitation to a French general named Boisdeffre to attend the annual military dinner. The French primer Freycient of the day and the foreign minister Alexander Ribot were enthusiastic in Boisdeffre’s acceptance in their invitation.  When Biosdeffre got to St. Petersburg he found himself a special focus of intention from the Czar minister and the Czarhimself. After discussing matters with him, he came to a remarkable conclusion. He assured a formal report to his government (the government of Third French Republic) that if France was attacked by Germany, not having provoked that attack, if France was the victim, Russia would attack Germany.  Not because he loved France, because he would be acting solely in his own interest in defending the balance of power and the security of all states.  This fundamental census emerging between France and Russia about the danger eminating from Germany and its self-confidence there was, decided between the two powers a formal celebration of their new enmity in July 1891, the Kronstadt Affair with Admiral (..?). When the Naval quadroon approached in Kronstadt on July 23rh 1890 the guns boomed out in salute. The sailors in the thousands had made the journey to the city to line the Dutch sides at Kronstadt and they could hear from miles away as they made their way in escorted by Russian warships, the mass cry of ‘viva la France’.  The real iconic moment when Czar Alexander III and his foreign minister Giers attended the state banquet in the honor of the visiting French naval officers. The Czar of all the Russians stood bareheaded for the playing of the French national anthem for the (..?) which was the anthem for much of Radical Europe. it was an extraordinary gesture. The very day, the French Prime Minister sat down to draw an agreement between Republican France and Russia. The result, approved by both sides was a political understanding signed in late August 1891. In the Franco-Russian political agreement: - Both side agreed to harmonize their policy in dealing with the affairs of Europe. They would try to work out joint policies. - If any member of the Triple Alliance (Germany, Italy, or Austria) mobilized its armed forces then without need for further concentration, the two powers would arm their forces.  This political understanding was all that the Russian foreign minster Giers wanted. He wanted to put a shock across Europe and bring them back to the negotiating table and value the Franco-Russian deal.  Alexander III had a different view. As he put it, “we must correct the mistakes of the past and attack Germany at the first opportunity” what he was saying was that Russia could not afford to see a France go on. It was prepared to go to war to fight for the survival of another state. All because of the balance of power. This is the role we have seen Britain play so often. Britain was prepared to go to war because the balance of power was the ultimate guarantee of his own security. Alexander III eventually insisted upon the signature of the real Franco-Russian alliance.  Franco-Russia convention of January 1894. Key provisions were as follows. - Article one:  If France is attacked by German, or by Italy supported by Germany, Russia will employ all her available forces for an attack on Germany.  If Russia is attacked by Germany, or Austria supported by Germany, France will employ all her available forces for an attack on Germany. - Article Two:  Repeated the pledge of mutual mobilization and that if any of the members of the Triple alliance mobilized then Russia and France would also mobilize. - Article Three: (key of the Franco-Russian military convention)  Specified forces that both sides would immediately put into the field against Germany.  Russia: 700,000-800,000. They would have to put more in for Austria.  France promised that immediate mobilization of 1,300,000 men.  The shock waves that ran across the continent were profound, because they alliance was between two unlikely partners. Also some of observers realized that it was a defensive agreement. It was for the maintenance of international peace.  Two things happened over the next decade or so by the time the alliance was renewed in 1899 and refocused in 1901 was a lessening of attention between and amongst Germany one side and Russia and France on another. - The renewal of the agreement in 1899 the preamble was strengthened to say that the primary purpose was to uphold the balance of power. - In 1901, with recent of Britain tension on one side, and the France and Russian tensions on the other, the Alliance was renegotiated with France and Russia on one side and Britain on the other to specify this position in case it could have occurred with Britain on one side and Franco-Russian bloc on the other.  So for the first decade or so of its existence far from sowing the seed of immediate confrontation with Germany or broiling France and Russia in a permanent enmity with the Germans. If anything the reassurance and security guaranteed made them less paranoid with their dealings with the German.  Holstein i
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